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After Harry : Alex and the Ironic Gentleman, The Arrival, Mrs. Frisby
© Deanna Toxopeus
April 03, 2010

Spring break is almost here, and like a caged tiger, you are pacing that cage known as school. You want to be free to roam that elusive land of freedom and opportunity . . . the basement. There, you can live in the dark and gloom, wear you black t-shirt and listen to Warp 11 and no one will care what book you are reading.

But alas, that lay-about J.K. Rowling has yet to produce anything new to tantalize your imagination. Is there a charity to raise funds for? A Hollywood studio in need of a guaranteed blockbuster? A castle in Ireland she needs to buy? At the very least she could think of her fans, starving for one more game of Quidditch.

But never fear, loyal readers! RevolutionSF is here with suggestions to make your reading week full of actual reading. Take that, lazy multi-billionaires!

Alex and the Ironic Gentleman

Author: Adrienne Kress / Reading Level: Grade 7 / Suggested Audience: Grade 4 and up / Target Reader: People with senses of humor

Alex hates her school, but the arrival of a new teacher lightens her mood. Mr. Underwood makes learning fun and befriends Alex's beloved uncle.

This comes to a crashing halt when Mr. Underwood is kidnapped by pirates who think he knows where a treasure is hidden. She sets out to rescue her teacher, leading to a series of encounters with strange and nefarious people.

The novel breaks the fourth wall, with the author talking to her audience to comment on the action, allowing for lots of humor. Harry fans will love the orphan saving the day. The action will appeal to boys despite the female protagonist. Good news, teachers: this has been optioned for a movie, soon you will be able to do the Compare the Book to the Film assignment. Your students will love you!

Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter

Author: RJ Anderson / Reading Level: Grade 5 / Suggested Audience: Grade 5 and up / Target Reader: Girls, fans of fairies

The Fairies are dying and no one knows why. Young fairy Knife is eager to do her bit to help her fairy colony Oakenwyld by training as a Hunter. This allows her out of the Oakenwyld to gather food and supplies.

While outside, Knife observes the human world. She falls into the lap of a human, Paul, who is confined to a wheelchair. As Knife recovers, she forges a friendship with Paul, against everything she has been taught.

This initial outing from R.J. Anderson has a classic feel to it. I spoke to the author; she knows her youth fantasy. But don't worry that this means Faery Rebels is a pale imitation of other books you have read. This is a story that is so comfortable that you sink into it.

The Arrival

Author: Shaun Tan / Reading Level: Grade 4 / Suggested Audience: Grade 5 and up / Target Reader: Children of immigrants, English teachers

This is a brilliant, wordless picture book that tells about the immigrant experience. It traces the path of a new immigrant as he tries to find a place to live, a job and integrate into new culture. Along the way, we learn what pushed him to leave his country and make a new life.

Author/illustrator Shaun Tan added fantastical elements, to avoid placing his tale in a specific time or place. This makes the book's themes universal. It is about anyone, from any time in history who has been forced to leave their home and make a new life. Think Terry Gilliam, and you have the idea how these elements are woven into the story.

By choosing not to have text, Tan allowed the reader to interact with the story, filling in the details.

Harry fans will love the fantastical elements of the story. Tan is a master world builder. And I can guarantee, given the themes of this book, the teachers are lining up to use this book in their classrooms.

From the Classics: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

Author: Robert C. O'Brien / Reading Level: Grade 5 / Suggested Audience: Grade 3 and up / Target Reader: Animal fans, parents looking for a good read aloud

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh is about a field mouse wintering in a farm garden. One child has fallen ill and can't be moved. But they must make the summer move before the farmer plows his field.

Mrs. Frisby is pulled into something far more dangerous and fantastic that she could ever imagine.

This book is almost forty years old, but it is still one of the best fantasy novels for younger children. Harry fans will love the world building. Parents will love to cuddle up with their children and read this book aloud before bed. It can also lead to a nice evening of watching the Don Bluth movie. (Listen for a young Wil Wheaton and Shannon Doherty as some of the the Frisby children.)

Deanna Toxopeus would gladly be a multi-milionare author, if someone would let her. All the After Harry reviews are right here.

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